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Keywords:

  • Definition of risk;
  • foundational issues;
  • principles;
  • probabilistic concepts;
  • system approach

The concept of risk has been applied in many modern science and technology fields. Despite its successes in many applicative fields, there is still not a well-established vision and universally accepted definition of the principles and fundamental concepts of the risk assessment discipline. As emphasized recently, the risk fields suffer from a lack of clarity on their scientific bases that can define, in a unique theoretical framework, the general concepts in the different areas of application. The aim of this article is to make suggestions for another perspective of risk definition that could be applied and, in a certain sense, generalize some of the previously known definitions (at least in the fields of technical and scientific applications). By drawing on my experience of risk assessment in different applicative situations (particularly in the risk estimation for major industrial accidents, and in the health and ecological risk assessment for contaminated sites), I would like to revise some general and foundational concepts of risk analysis in as consistent a manner as possible from the axiomatic/deductive point of view. My proposal is based on the fundamental concepts of the systems theory and of the probability. In this way, I try to frame, in a single, broad, and general theoretical context some fundamental concepts and principles applicable in many different fields of risk assessment. I hope that this article will contribute to the revitalization and stimulation of useful discussions and new insights into the key issues and theoretical foundations of risk assessment disciplines.